Allegory of the Cave Applied to Social Media

The internet was born in 1990 and has now, 28 years later, become a crucial aspect of our everyday lives. Plato is an ancient Greek philosopher whose writings explored justice, beauty, and equality. The book Allegory of the Cave stands out to people the most because it is relatable and can be applied in the world we live in today. It is a book about a couple of prisoners who have been locked up with chains their whole lives and have never been out or seen anything other than a wall and the shadows of people and animals projected onto that wall. One day, a prisoner was released and when he went out past the cave it was “blinding”, as Plato describes it, to him because he only knows and believes what he has seen his whole life, which is the shadows of those who walked by the cave projected onto the wall he faced. When he discovered that there is a whole other world out there other than the shadows and the wall he wanted to tell the other prisoners what he saw. He then went back to the cave and became a prisoner again just so he could tell them about his discovery and that there is much more to believe in than just the shadows and the wall. After he told them all about what he saw they did not believe him because all they have known their whole lives is this wall and nothing else. Social media has evolved so much compared to what it used to be. When the internet first came out, users could only use it to send emails, now the internet can be used to do almost anything from talking to a friend across the world to browsing social media feeds like Facebook and Twitter to see what others have to share about their lives. When browsing through feeds many different things pop up; things like advertising, a celebrity’s picture, news, and so much more.

Just like the cave in Plato’s Allegory, social media is also a trap that keeps its users from seeing reality. Social media users don’t see reality because they don’t see the other half of that person’s life. The only part they see of them is the happy and positive side, not the sad and negative side. This leads us to believe that they are happier than they actually are. This is just like the cave in Plato’s Allegory because in the cave the prisoners only see partial reality. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the cave is preventing the prisoners from seeing the other side because they are chained to a wall and are not able to see anything other than the shadows of those who walk by the cave projected onto that wall. The social contract connects to social media and the cave by trapping its users in a society that keeps them from seeing the whole truth. In the allegory Plato states, “How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?”. The prisoners don’t know what is waiting for them out in the world, so how are they supposed to see that there is more than just a wall and shadows if they cannot move their heads around to discover what is around them.

The shadows in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave can be related to the falsified nature of social media. Social media is falsified because what we see is not always what is true. We only see pictures that are filtered and face tuned which falsifies what we expect the person to look like in reality. When looking at celebrity’s Instagram pages, we see perfectly clear skin and perfectly sculpted bodies that everyone wants to achieve. Unlike on Instagram, in real life we see large pores, acne scars, cakey makeup, and less than perfect body shapes. Just like in the allegory, the fake side of celebrities can be seen as the shadows that the prisoners have been seeing their whole life. Just like the prisoners in the cave, we as social media users, only see a portion of celebrity’s lives. We only see what they want us to see. An example of a celebrity who has done this is Kylie Jenner. When she got pregnant she did not want anyone to know, and in the end, no one knew until she gave birth to her daughter. That is proof that they only show us what they want us to see, which is the fake part of their lives. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave he explains this with a metaphor saying, “On the walls of the cave, only the shadows are the truth”. Similar to the shadows, the social contract relates to social media by forcing its users to ignore reality and only believe in what they know to be true to themselves.

Daily users of social media platforms can be depicted as the prisoners, from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, because they are both held captive. They are held captive by social media because the internet has become a part of their everyday lives and they cannot be free of captivation until they start to see what is real. The reason behind this is that celebrities and beauty companies profit off of everyday people that feel the need to be better. Just like in the allegory, the prisoners are not able to believe that there is a whole world to discover beyond the cave because they cannot see anything but the wall and the shadows on it. We are the prisoners of these social media platforms and we are chained to the wall that is the internet, we cannot live our lives without it because we don’t know how. Social media is the new social contract that we are imprisoned in and cannot release ourselves from it. In the allegory Plato states, “And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes”. Users are not able to see the light because they have been in the dark for too long. Therefore, it is difficult to see reality because their eyes are not adjusted to the brightness.

Plato uses metaphors to describe how social media tricks its users in believing in false advertising. Celebrities falsely advertise their lives, and only show us what is believed to be their happy and perfect lives. The metaphor that Plato uses to describe this in his allegory are the shadows which the prisoners see projected onto the wall. He also metaphorically says that we are the prisoners that are trapped in the cave and cannot see what is beyond the cave. In this case the cave is social media that has each one of us captured and chained to our electronic devices. The main idea that Plato is trying to get across to us is that we should not always believe in one thing, we should be open to new concepts and beliefs rather than just being chained to only one.